The quarterback play in the SEC hasn’t been great the past few seasons, and that trend seems likely to continue in 2016.
However, there are a few well-known names at the top of the conference who should be in line for a big year, and you never know if a young player will come out of nowhere and put up huge numbers.
Who will join the likes of recent SEC greats like Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel and Georgia’s Aaron Murray and pass for more than 3,000 yards this fall? Let’s take a look some possibilities:
Chad Kelly, Ole Miss
After piling up the third most yards in SEC history — including 4,042 passing yards — in his first year in the SEC, there’s no reason to think Kelly will do anything differently in 2016. The league’s top returning quarterback fits perfectly into coach Hugh Freeze’s offense, and despite the Rebels losing some valuable pieces this offseason — Laquon Treadwell and Laremy Tunsil, most notably — there are still plenty of playmakers around Kelly, which point toward another big offensive season for him.
With Damore’ea Stringfellow, Evan Engram, Quincy Adeboyejo and Markell Pack all back as proven SEC pass-catchers, plus Demarkus Lodge, Van Jefferson, A.J. Brown and D.K. Metcalf looking to make their mark in the conference, the options for Kelly are abundant. Throw in the fact that Ole Miss has the deepest running back talent it has had under Freeze, allowing the Rebels to showcase a balanced attack, and Kelly should have little trouble reaching this mark.
Josh Dobbs, Tennessee
The hype surrounding Dobbs entering 2016 is at an all-time high, and that might be the biggest challenge for the senior to overcome as he looks to return Tennessee to the SEC’s apex.
Dobbs finished fifth in the SEC in passing last season, totaling 2,291 yards, so he’ll have to make a big jump in production to reach the 3,000-yard milestone this season. Jalen Hurd is a proven running back, and that should help open things up for Dobbs in the passing game. Add in the team’s collection of wide receivers, which includes Josh Malone, Josh Smith and Preston Williams, and there are plenty of options for Dobbs to target and rack up the needed yardage to make this list.
Trevor Knight, Texas A&M
This could be the surprise appearance on the list, but it’s not as far-fetched as it might seem from a distance. For one thing, Knight has shown the potential to throw for 3,000 yards during his career at Oklahoma. In 2014, he threw for 2,300 yards, despite missing three games that season.
Knight is now two years older, and understands what it takes to excel at the highest level of college football — and he’s in a spot that should give him plenty of opportunities to make big plays. During coach Kevin Sumlin’s four years at Texas A&M, the Aggies have averaged precisely 4,000.25 passing yards per season. So if Knight can stay healthy and be the guy for Texas A&M throughout the entire season, there’s no reason he shouldn’t continue that trend. Throw in talented wide receivers such as Christian Kirk, Josh Reynolds, Ricky Seals-Jones and Speedy Noil, and there will be open options for Knight to find.